Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Intentional Online Communities

Author:Dave Winer
Posted:11/1/1999; 7:59:43 AM
Topic:Democracy, personalisation and Reputation Managers
Msg #:12575 (In response to 12574)
Prev/Next:12574 / 12576

I think I figured out the answer to this.

As often is the case, it came from reading a Jakob Nielsen piece, pointed to by Lawrence Lee. This is a powerful combination. Lawrence has encyclopedic memory and/or is a search engine expert. And Jakob has wisdom from years of learning about users. And an irreverent attitude when it comes to speaking his mind.

The Fallacy of Atypical Web Examples:

Anybody who was online in 1985 when The WELL started was clearly a member of a small elite on the frontier of computing. Geographic location (San Francisco/Silicon Valley) made the membership even more elitist and leading-edge. Sure, hanging out with the 1% smartest people in the world can be fun, but the average Web site will have average users. Also, once you get a broader and more diverse user population, you get hit by the extreme participation inequality that characterizes all aspects of the Internet: a few people do all the talking and they are rarely the most interesting people (unless everybody in the group is drawn from the world's top-1%).

Jakob talks about The Well, how it was very early, and was a virtually self-selected community of pioneers. The quality of discourse was very high. Presumably people felt like they received a lot of value from being part of The Well in the mid-80s.

At the same time I've been grappling with issues here on the UserLand DG. Deleting mindless and powerless messages is a very poor way to use my time. And I believe it scares off the people who I want to work with the most.

I remember being fascinated, in the 60s and 70s, with towns that were planned from scratch. There was one in Virginia. Not sure how it turned out. It would be worth looking at.

And then I hit on the idea of an invitation-only "intentional" online community. Not open to the world, perhaps not even readable by the world. One that had previously agreed-to rules of conduct, and where the choices were made to only include people who are known to be respectful, intelligent, hard-working, idealistic, good-natured, and to have something of a twinkle in their eye. Totally non-democratic.

In previous lifetimes, such a website might have been called a "magazine".

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